We swore we wouldn't use the obvious, predictable headline: "100-MPG Truck a Really Bright Idea".
Yesterday a brand-new company, Bright Automotive, unveiled its very first vehicle, a plug-in hybrid light truck that it claims can get up to 100 miles per gallon. And, yes, the model name is ... Idea.
The aluminum and composite Idea uses a series hybrid powertrain (like the 2011 Chevrolet Volt) to run up to 30 miles on electricity from a 10-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. After that, a 4-cylinder engine (unspecified) kicks in. Urban delivery vehicles like this customarily run fixed routes of 50 to 100 miles a day, so the actual mileage depends on the mix of electric and gasoline running.
For a 50-mile route, the 20 miles powered by the engine would use about half a gallon of gasoline, translating to a total mileage equivalent of 100 mpg. Over 70 miles, that would rise to 1 gallon, equivalent to 70 mpg. And a 90-mile route would translate to 60 mpg. Not bad under any scenario, though technical details were sparse.
The payload is rated at 2000 pounds, and cargo volume at 180 cubic feet. It offers useful fleet features like a passenger seat that folds down to form a work surface, complete with cupholder. And its target coefficient of drag of 0.30 is as low as the then-radically aerodynamic 1984 Audi 5000 sedan--hardly an urban workhorse.
Fleet operators are tough buyers; they know precisely how much their vehicles cost to run over their entire life cycle, and push relentlessly to drive that number down. While early lithium packs will be very expensive, Federal tax credits will cover some of that cost--and all fleets know they have to plan for a world of pricier gasoline, even if it's cheap today. Bright declined to quote a price, saying fleets look at costs differently. Interpretation: It'll cost a lot.
Bright is an offshoot of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a think tank known for its ultra-lightweight Hypercar concept. The Bright Idea is the first production vehicle to put those principles into the marketplace.
But like other new vehiclemakers (Tesla Motors, for instance), Bright's goal of 50,000 Ideas a year depends on whether it gets additional funding. In this case, it needs $400 million, from venture firms and/or the Department of Energy's advanced vehicle program.
Bright Idea plug-in hybrid urban delivery van - April 21 unveiling in Washington, DC
Bright Idea plug-in hybrid urban delivery van - interior
Bright Idea plug-in hybrid urban delivery van